Friday, November 19, 2021

Microstory 1760: Ouruana

Depending on who you ask, Orion and his accessories are composed of eighteen major star systems. These are the ones that make up the shape of the constellation, and aren’t just in the vicinity somewhere. His belt is the most famous component, but he also has a sword, a shield, and a club. As my ancestors were looking up at the stars, they saw these images, and used them to help navigate the world; in particular, the oceans. Their movements were predictable, and reliable. Way back then, they believed that the stars in any given constellation were close to one another, but of course, we now know that they aren’t. Some of  them are a couple hundred light years from our point of origin, which is Earth, and some are well over a thousand. Still, my peoples were reportedly mesmerized by Orion, and saw no reason to not create a relationship amongst the individual stars that are not there naturally. When the Earthans began to spread out to the stars, a special group of colonists decided to focus exclusively on the stars in this one constellation. Now, centuries later, every one of the major systems has been settled, and falls under the rule of the Ouruanan Empire. Not all systems came with terrestrial planets, so in those cases, we built them ourselves. That has been my job for my entire adult life, to help construct an entirely artificial world orbiting π6 Orionis. As a planetscaper—as we’re called—my reward will be my own home on the colony, free of charge, and a steady income for the rest of my life. It won’t be glamorous, but I can find a new job if I want to, and upgrade later. I’m not sure about that yet. I’m a simple man, so I don’t need much, and just the excitement of knowing that I’m partially responsible for the land beneath my feet may be enough for me.

I’m in a stadium of thousands. Our leaders are about to announce if we’re considered done yet. Of course, we’ll continue to build as our population grows, but at some point, they have to decide that we’re officially on a real planet, and not still in the main phase of the process. “Thank you all for coming,” the Foreman begins. “I know you have all been eagerly awaiting the results of our assessment. Can we call this a finished planet, or is there more work to be done? Obviously, the work is never over, so what you’re really asking is, can you retire? I’m pleased to announce that your efforts have not been in vain, and that the main phase is indeed complete.” The crowd cheers, grateful to finally live their lives on a fully constructed world. Most of us probably won’t set one more foot on a spacecraft or space station. We’re ready to breathe an atmosphere held in place by gravity, and swim in the lakes. The Foreman holds up his hand, instructing us to quiet down. “Unfortunately, I’m not sure you’ll want to live here anymore. You can, if you want—it’s your choice—but it’s not going to last you very long. As you know, we are at war with the Taurans. The Emperor is interested in testing a new weapon that his top researchers have devised that is capable of destroying an entire planet in a matter of minutes. Due to the interstellar rules of engagement, we are only allowed to test weapons in our own territory, lest we want to incur the wrath of the Constellation Alliance. They’ve chosen our humble planet as their target. Destruction is scheduled for two years from now. We apologize for the inconvenience.” Two years, huh? That’s more than enough time for me to perfect my orbital defense satellites. If they want to test that weapon, they’ll have to go against me. The Ouranans may be going to war with itself.

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